It's a lie! Chief Justice Michael Stailey never kidnapped a monk.
Warner Bros. thinks we're idiots.
The Hangover was a little $35 Million under-the-radar comedy that took the box office by storm and grossed $462 Million worldwide. What does Hollywood do when it has a surprise hit on its hands? Clone it, of course. With dollar signs in their eyes, Warner execs quickly commissioned a sequel, with a memo that I can only assume read something like, "Don't change anything! Same plot. Same cast. Different location. Just make everything bigger and crazier. And throw in a monkey. People love monkeys. Here's a big fat check. Get started."
Meanwhile, across town, Universal execs are having a conniption. "How can we get in on this action? Who's another raunchy director? Judd Apatow! Wait…What?! He won't direct??? Fine! Tell him to get one of his friends to do it and we'll give him producer credit. But this has to be different…Make it all women! And get it into theaters before The Hangover sequel. Here's a check. Get started."
When the Summer 2011 dust settles, Bridesmaids is a smash hit with audiences and critics alike, grossing $263 Million worldwide. The Hangover Part II gets a mediocre round of applause…and grosses twice as much money.
Warner Bros. is right. We are idiots.
Facts of the Case
Second verse, same as the first. Stu (Ed Helms) is marrying Lauren (Jamie Chung) in her parents native Thailand. Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Doug (Justin Bartha) are his groomsmen. Doug's mentally unstable brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis) is feeling left out, so he wrangles him an invitation. The bachelor party is just going to be a bonfire on the beach and couple of beers with Lauren's little brother Teddy (Mason Lee). Morning breaks and the boys wake disoriented in a rundown hotel, in a strange city, with no clue how they got there. Stu has a face tattoo. Alan has a shaved head. Phil is unscathed. There's a monkey in the room. Doug and Teddy are missing. Well, most of Teddy…his severed finger is floating in a bucket of water. Manic panic sets in, but not to worry. Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) knows exactly what happened…and he'll be happy to explain everything after his morning cocaine bump. ((THUD)). Chow is dead. Hilarity ensues.
I came to The Hangover later than most everyone else. By that time, the movie had been anointed "The Greatest Comedy Ever Made!" It wasn't. It was raucous, hilarious, and different. There's just no way it could live up to the hype surrounding it. Fast forward two summers and The Hangover Part II is pre-qualified as bigger and better than its predecessor. It isn't. The script treads the same ground as the first film, now less fertile, and requires its cast to play everything at a level neither they nor its humor can maintain.
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis are as solid as they were in the first film, just with less interesting material. Ken Jeong gets more space to do his thing, which by now (thanks to his role on Community) is starting to wear thin. The female characters have almost nothing to do, you don't get to see any more of Justin Bartha than you did before, and only newcomer Mason Lee leaves a lasting impression.
So how does director Todd Phillips and company overcome these obstacles? More diverse scenery (Phulay Bay resort, the slums of Bangkok, the islands of Ko Khao Phing Kan), more action (wild car chases, attacking monks, gun play), more weirdness (a drug mule monkey, an elderly monk with an erection, transgender sex), and cameos by Paul Giamatti and Nick Cassavetes (who replaced Liam Neeson, who replaced Mel Gibson). This is a script by Craig Mazin and Scott Armstrong, guys who gave us such films as Scary Movie 3, Superhero Movie, Starsky and Hutch, and Semi-Pro. Not exactly a glowing track record of success. Then again, The Hangover scribes Jon Lucas and Scott Moore went on to do The Change-Up, so there are no guarantees in this business.
Look, I'm not here to knock anyone who enjoyed The Hangover Part II. I paid to see it in the theater. I laughed. And I laughed again seeing it on Blu-ray. The sad thing is, we aren't doing ourselves any favors. A box office take of $565 Million worldwide guarantees another paltry sequel and countless other knockoffs. Hollywood thrives on guaranteed returns, which means we'll see variations on this theme until people stop paying for them. Science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, and horror can sustain franchises. Comedy is a much trickier beast. Blake Edwards couldn't do it. Mel Brooks couldn't do it. Woody Allen couldn't do it. Most directors are lucky to nail one or two great films and slew of diminishing also rans.
Todd Phillips has found a niche that works for him—Road Trip, Old School, Borat, Due Date—mostly middle-aged guys trying to reclaim their inner adolescent with comedic results. That's great. There's an audience for it. But even he's well-aware they cashed a paycheck on The Hangover Part II. The first bonus feature on this release is a mockumentary that attempts to expose "success run amok" and the abuse of power and privilege afforded them on this film. The best way to silence your critics is to make fun of yourself and your shortcomings. And they do that to great success.
But I'm getting ahead of myself…
Presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition widescreen, The Hangover Part II (Blu-ray) is drenched in visual splendor. This amplified travelogue of Thailand takes us from the societal highs of the Ritz-Carlton resort where Stu and Lauren's wedding is being held, to the squalor of inner city Bangkok. You can feel the grimy sweat oozing from the screen, as the over-saturated color correction juices everything we see to an extreme. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is equally impressive, especially for a comedy. The action utilizes the entire sound field with ambience to spare—Teddy's lush cello performance, the aftermath of a wild night on the streets of Bangkok, Mr. Chow's wild car chase, another eclectic soundtrack. I have no clue where Stu got hold of a guitar needed to sing his variation on Billy Joel's "Allentown," but even Ed Helms puts his musical talents to good use.
As for the bonus material…
• The Unauthorized Documentary (26 min)—This aforementioned mockumentary follows wannabe documentarian Miles Davis-Davidson on his quest to expose the production team of The Hangover Part II and their rampant abuse of power which has sent shock waves throughout the Hollywood community. By interviewing everyone from Morgan Spurlock and JJ Abrams to cast, crew, and people whose identity must remain secret, Miles hopes to tear the cover off this secret society and obtain the never-before-seen footage that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that director Todd Phillips and his team are out of control. In all honesty, this featurette generates more laughs than the entire film. Sad, but true.
• The Comedy Rhythm of Todd Phillips (7 min)—A brief look at the process of Phillips directing style and creativity employed on set.
• Not Your Everyday Monkey (3 min)—Get to know Crystal the Capuchin monkey and her unhealthy relationship with co-star Bradley Cooper.
• Bangkok Tour with Chow (3 min)—Ken Jeong stays in character as Mr. Chow gives you his impressions on the city of Bangkok.
• Gag Reel (5 min)—You won't find many laughs here. In fact, the audio is so soft, you'll have to strain to catch anything.
• Action Mashup (1 min)—Compressed montage of slaps, shots, and crashes. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.
As long as you're not expecting gut-busting hilarity, The Hangover Part II will fill a weekend movie night. Just remember: Feeding this wolfpack means they're only going to come back for more. You've been warned.
Ambivalence reigns supreme.
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